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John Kampouropoulos - Hero and a Crucifix (self-released)

27 April 2024

Sometimes, it is all about first impressions. I know it is my job to listen to a song from a more holistic, top down, overall point-of-view, but I’m still just a regular music fan, too. I would defy anyone to drop the virtual needle on this digital record and not immediately be wowed by John Kampouropoulos’ voice. I know I was. Of course, as the song builds, there is plenty more to wrap your ears around – those snake-like and seductive guitar lines, that busy, infectious groove, the rising dynamic, and the building tension, atmosphere and anticipation – but it is the voice on this title track that kicks Hero and a Crucifix off that gets you.

From this slice of chamber-pop meets dramatic alt-rock, as if to immediately claim a crown of eclecticism and broad sonic creativity, “Moonlit Sea,” which follows, is the sort of indie song that the likes of the dear departed Cathal Coughlan might have laid on us. That same blend of old-school crooner and cutting-edge contemporary artist rings as true here as it always did with that late, great man’s solo work.

“Mother” is a tortured torch ballad with a particularly heart-wrenching vocal delivery, and some melancholic mariachi trumpets added a brilliant touch of pathos to the sound. “Over The Top” is a neat take on an older and almost forgotten style of rock and roll. And “Perfect Way” drifts rather than drives across the listener’s consciousness.

Hero and a Crucifix is a remarkable collection of songs that don’t quite fit in any genre or era and are not entirely contained in any already established sound or style. It is an album that has restored my flagging faith in fringe music makers and underground creatives to come up with something truly new, truly exciting, and truly brilliant.